Claiming 126,681 COVID-19 deaths worldwide and counting, this pandemic draws our rage against the rottenness of the Capitalist system which has prioritized private profit over human lives. Neoliberalism plagues the healthcare system through the imperialist dictated-policy of privatization in health care and medical services. As the COVID-19 pandemic has hampered the capacity of workers to produce goods and services, the world is now in the midst of the worst global economic downturn in the 21st century.
Migrants, refugees and displaced people are troubled by travel bans, lockdowns and closures of national borders. Many are even scared to get medical testing for fear of arrest and detention. Worst of all, migrants are scapegoated and being blamed for spreading the disease. At the border between Chile and Bolivia, the Bolivian military is denying entry to their own citizens who simply want to return home. In Hongkong, Filipino and Indonesian domestic helpers are being barred by their employers to go out during their rest days so many are forced to stay in and work. The risk of transmission is very high among detained migrants locked up in overcrowded detention centers under unsanitary conditions. Little attention is also being given to the health and wellbeing of seafarers. Without safety nets, access to basic needs and legal protection at this time of pandemic and recession, the pain and suffering of migrants are just unimaginable.
In the Philippines, many OFWs and their families are left excluded by the Duterte regime from receiving aid and relief. Even OFW frontliners themselves are not on the list of those who will receive cash assistance from the Philippine government. Aside from the remittances they contribute, OFWs are financially squeezed dry through state exactions before and after their deployment but whenever they face troubles like the COVID-19 pandemic and recession they get nothing in return.
The Duterte regime has also attempted to stop the deployment of Filipino nurses overseas. It back-pedaled after it met strong opposition from healthcare workers and their advocates. Nurses in the Philippines are not only overworked and underpaid but they are forced to work in overcrowded, underfunded and understaffed hospitals. There is nothing universal about Duterte’s much vaunted “Universal Healthcare Law” and it has been exposed as a scam to subsidize private profit. Aside from terrible working conditions, the absence of genuine universal health care in the Philippines is among the factors that push Filipinos to seek better lives overseas just to support the healthcare needs of their loved ones. Now that countries are reeling from the debilitating impacts of COVID-19, migrants are not only losing their jobs due to retrenchments, they are left stranded and neglected. Even more terrible is Duterte’s militarist response to a public health emergency situation that actually requires immediate medical and socioeconomic solutions.
Without national pharmaceutical industries and research facilities, the Philippines and many countries in the Global South are forced to rely on private-foreign suppliers of medical resources like PPEs, vaccines, and medicines. Poor countries are not only being preyed upon by large multinational pharmaceutical companies, they are likewise being taken advantage of by international financial institutions like the World Bank and IMF that offer loan programs accompanied by sets of conditions that enforce neoliberal policies.
Migrante International is one with the ILPS Commission 15 in calling on all migrants to forge stronger solidarity with all the oppressed peoples of the world. We give the highest salute to all frontliners for their commitment as well as to all migrant organizations and institutions who continue to give aid and support to migrants in distress. As we charge forward against COVID-19, there are larger evils that we need to contend with and these are the plagues of neoliberalism and imperialist aggression. Let us reclaim public health from Capitalist greed!
Public health, not private profit!
Free mass testing and treatment for all!
Bailout working people! Not big corporations!
Social protection for the masses!
Respect democratic and human rights!